Let’s imagine you want to take 6 months off to travel, or maybe a year, or maybe even longer. Perhaps you have a list of places you’ve always wanted to go, or a list of activities you’d love to have time to do but can’t when you’re working 50 hour work weeks. How do you begin to plan your time in a way that maximizes your options and money?
Traveling overland is a luxury you can afford when you’re not in a rush to get back to work. Traveling overland gives you a chance to see a different side to place. You get out of tourist areas and travel through a county rather than going from tourist area to airport to tourist area. It is often the way the locals travel too, giving you an opportunity to interact with people outside of the regular tourist circuit. It is cheaper and definitely slower and you’ll get to see places most people skip completely when in a rush to see a place.
To make overland travel work, you need to plan your route. Even if you stick to the flight-in flight-out model of travel, you’ll still need to figure out the best route to connect all of the places and things you want to do.
What do we consider when planning our route?
Weather: rainy season, hot weather, monsoon, winter weather that makes travel tough, the weather can effect what you want to do and see in the places you are visiting.
Visa requirements: some countries require you to apply for a visa in advance, others offer you a visa on arrival, others require you to prove you’ve had a certain type of vaccination before they can grant you a visa. There are a lot of rules. Visa requirements can have a big impact on your timing and route plan.
Festivals or national holidays: some countries have national holidays that bring transportation to a dead stop. For example, traveling in China around New Years is not impossible but it is certainly challenging and if you’re not prepared you could find yourself stuck somewhere longer than you’d like. On the flip slide, it makes for an excellent story. Still, festivals and national holidays is something to consider when planning your route.
There are other things to consider like money, culture, safety at boarder crossings, language barriers outside of tourist areas, and more, but these considerations have more to do with the places your visiting and your travel style. As a first step, researching the weather, visa requirements, and festivals or other high-season impacts to your route plan, will help you to begin mapping your travel route.
The first step.
List all the places you want to go. I love excel for this. Some people like pen and paper, old school journal form. What ever works for you, make your list!
Then we use these websites to research and list the weather, visa requirements, and the time of year we either want to avoid or target because of festivals or national holidays.
The “Best Time to Visit” website is a tool I use to start my weather research. You pick your continent and your country and the site generates a handy chart that shows average temperature, rainfall, and more of cities in the country you’ve chosen. You can even look up locations in the opposite way by looking up best places to travel by month.
The Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories website (because we’re Canadian) is the place we go to learn about visa requirements for each place. Here you can select a country from the drop down menu. Each country has an enter and exit requirements tab that will tell you (if you are Canadian) what visa you need and how you can get it. There are also travel advisories and safety warnings for each country. Keep in mind the Canadian Government is very conservative if you followed the warnings to the letter you’d never leave you home. Common sense is important when traveling. Take in the suggested warnings and then do your own research and be smart.
When it comes to planning for festivals or national holidays, these dates and times of year often vary by calendar year (for example Ramadan or Lunar New Year). Once we’re settled on the countries we’re interested in, I simply google search the national holidays and festivals and list them on the excel document.
With all the information, we lay everything out on to a timeline showing different logical route that map together. If I don’t already know, I’ll do a little research on boarder crossing safety on travel board like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum.
These the planning sheets I pulled together before our 2011 to 2013 trip (see above) help to think through logical connections. We plot areas where we must be by certain times to do some of the volunteering or meditation courses we want to do.
For us, travel timing plans gets us thinking about what we want to do with our time off and whether we’ve saved enough money to do all that we want to do before returning home.
Hope you find this helpful! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to message us and we’ll do our best to help if we can.